Friday, July 30, 2010

A Tale of Two Enterprises

Don't put your hand to the plow without putting your intelligence and affections to it as well.

Dana Bate
This is the story of two businesses, one a failure and one a success.
The Ballad of the Sad Coffee House

Once upon a time there was a young man, a recent college graduate, who wanted to own his own business. The city he lived in was vibrant with a long cultural and intellectual history. There were colleges and art museums, concert halls and theatres. He admired the coffee houses that were sprinkled around the city and it's suburbs. He liked the people who came to them and the ambience of those establishments. So he decided to open one himself. He wasn't too smart about it.

He chose a place further out of town, much further. He rented a large space, formerly a seafood restaurant that had gone out of business. He invested in tables, chairs, charming decor and colorful lighting. He spent a lot of money ordering expensive coffee beans and rare teas. He hired someone to make the various coffees on his menu and taught him how to do it. He hired waiters to serve the customers. Against expert advice he decided to do his own advertising and promotion, which was very lackadaisical and uninteresting. Then he sat back and waited for the place to fill up.

In a short time he closed, owing a lot of money. People said he picked the wrong location. His shop was on a well traveled road, with other shopping areas near it. What he did was to pick the wrong town. He didn't trouble himself to find out what the town could use or what it needed. He just assumed what would work in one place would work in another, but the place where he chose to prove that theory had no colleges, a slim cultural life and no pretensions to elitism or intellectual snobbery. It was a beef eating, beer drinking, snow plowing, ski and tourist town. It was the lack of intelligence and affections that brought him down.

The Song of the Happy Restaurant

Then there was the man who took an old ski lodge, put in tables and chairs, fixed up the kitchen, made up a menu and opened his door. His restaurant was in the worst possible location, down a tertiary country road with no skiing area and no other buildings near it. He did no advertising that I can remember. It was word of mouth and he always had customers. But there was a gimmick, and a good one.

The first time we went to it, because some one had told us to, we walked in and right at the door was a letter, framed and hung up, complaining about the food and threatening a law suit, signed by the restaurant critic of the Associated Press. There were a few other such letters. And when we walked into the dining room a big burly man with a loud voice said " \Well, two more"

We were shown to a table and given menus. The waitress said the soup of the day was lentil but don't order it because it's terrible. I asked what the alternative was, she said there was none. I asked about some of the other dishes and she said it was all awful. That's when I got the point. We ordered dinner, including the lentil soup, and, of course, it was excellent.

The big loud man turned out to be the owner and chef. He enjoyed pretending and having his help pretend that everything was wretched because, in fact, he was one of the best chefs around and people knew it and told other people. There was no sitting around waiting for customers. He was a busy man. His heart was in what he did and he enjoyed insulting his own, delicious cuisine.

After dinner he came out for a moment and asked us how it was. I said "dreadful." He laughed and said "That's what I like to hear."

I'll bet the AP critic went back for more, as I did.

Dana Bate
The Vagabond

Here are the first two words of song titles.
"I got" or "I've got"

The person who comes up with the longest list of song titles that begin with those two words will be the winner. In the case of a tie duplicated prizes will be awarded.

good luck


Liz said...

I have never written a song with either of those first words in the title.
I have never 'got' anything as a consequence.

The ditty of the dying poet,
Sounds like a deep pan pizza left
At the roadside in its’ cardboard box,
With free toppings totally bereft.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I owned a coffee shop for a while in California, and it is about location and passion. It went well for a while, but since it was secondary to my day job, and due to family situation, I walked away. It was a very cheap business education.